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The world of high-end audio is chock full of ridiculously expensive gear. While some of it’s only marginally better than significantly less expensive options, there is a segment that lives up to the hype and delivers performance that’s a jealousy-inducing revelation. For example, take Germany’s Sennheiser and its legendary Orpheus HE90 headphones. Landing at roughly a $16,000 price point, the HE90 is widely considered to be an industry benchmark for performance and quality. If you can’t imagine dropping $16K on headphones, then you’d better sit down because the company recently announced an updated reference headphone system that costs nearly three-times as much. Meet the new Orpheus.

The new Orpheus come complete with a marble clad tube amp.

Priced at a whopping $55,000, Sennheiser’s new Orpheus is more than a pair of electrostat cans. It includes a “granular, inhomogeneous” marble encased 500 V amplifier complete with eight vacuum tubes sporting patent pending quartz-glass bulbs with environmental shielding properties to ensure near-perfect output. What’s near perfect, you ask? How about a frequency response of 8Hz – 100 kHz and a total harmonic distortion of 0.01 percent. Incredible, right? Add to that an SPL capability of 100 decibels, and you have the new Ferrari of the headphone world.

“For seven decades now, Sennheiser has shaped the industry and has been at the cutting edge of audio by continuously re-defining the gold standard of what is technically possible,” said Sennheiser CEO Daniel Sennheiser. “With the Orpheus, we are once again pushing the boundaries and are showing that we can repeatedly set new benchmarks in excellence and reshape the future of the high-end audio world.”

The headphones, themselves, are an electrostat design. This means that they operate by placing a static charge on an extremely thin material, which is oscillated by voltage and thus producing sound. This kind of design has traditionally required a fair amount of voltage to operate. Sennheiser says most of the amplifier power in electrostat headphone design is lost in the cable between the amp and headphone. The company has worked around this problem by installing an ultra-high impulse amp stage directly integrated into the cups of the headphones, giving a 200-percent rise in overall efficiency.

“Our approach was [to] amplify the alternating voltage to high voltages not at the beginning of the cable but at the point where it is really required – directly at the gold-vaporized ceramic electrodes in the headphones themselves,” said Daniel Sennheiser.

Of course, for $55K you’d expect more than just great sound, right? The Orpheus experience begins with the press of the on/off button, which causes amp controls to slowly extend from the marble housing and vacuum tubes to slowly rise into position. Then, a glass cover rises to allow access to the headphones. Very slick, indeed.

“Our aim was to provide a sensual experience…” said Sennheiser’s Axel Grill.

Mission accomplished.

Image Credits: Sennheiser
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